Sunday, December 30, 2007

For the Love of Family

We travel to Houston for Christmas every year. It's a long journey because we go by car so our boys can travel with us. We have been going since the 1980's when Hubby's sister lived in an apartment and we were each pre-dogs/cats.

We used to garage sale in the summer and acquire strange Christmas presents that we would give -- and then ask the recipient to guess exactly what the item was. Hubby's sister was a computer programmer in the 1980's when that was a strange and new profession. One year she gave us used computer chips -- and we had no idea what they were. In the picture below we had decorated her balcony for some contest held in her complex.

As we all matured, Hubby's sister moved into her own townhouse. We always stayed with her and she would abandon her bed to us, sleeping either with friends or in the guest bedroom in a sleeping bag. In 1990 we started arriving with a dog. Several years later she had a cat. We added Christmas stockings into the mix for our fur children. The fireplace in this home didn't actually work but she filled it with candles so we had the correct ambiance. In the picture on the right we had spent the Christmas holiday revamping her kitchen -- and Sister had given Hubby a matching sweater for Christmas and he had given her a matching hat.

Eventually Hubby's sister moved into a very elegant townhouse with a working fireplace. That year we lit the gas logs on Christmas morning, but the temps outside were so warm we had to also run the central air conditioning. The picture on the left is of Hubby's train track. The train is a huge German toy train that has enough track to run through half the living room -- including through the glass coffee table. Notice also that the gift giving has gotten just a bit out-of-hand.

Then Hubby's sister retired from her management position with a big Texas oil company and decided that she would rent her now two townhouses for extra income. She and her two cats moved in with a good friend. We were still welcomed with open arms but it seemed prudent at that time to stay in a motel when we visited. The picture at the bottom right is of Hubby feeding Wolfie his Christmas treats while Omri, the cat, watches. Both Om and Wolf are now gone -- but they are both with us in our hearts.

After a couple of years, Hubby's sister moved into a sweet little rental property, owned by another good friend. With only bedroom, we continued to stay in a motel during Christmas week.

Last year, after a series of hurricanes in the Houston area, Hubby's sister decided to sell one townhouse and move into the more elegant one -- and we were once again back together for the entire holiday. Sister decorated, Hubby cooked, and we celebrated like a loving family should.

This year's holiday was one of the best ever. The presents we gave seemed perfect. The laughter we shared was loud and long. The carols were sung. The traditional fried chicken and potato salad were devoured. And the love was shared. Christmas belongs to family. It renews you for the upcoming year and gives you the strength to carry on. Our family may not be a traditional one and it may be small in number -- but we nurture each other, we value our unique characteristics, and we support each other's lives. There is tremendous benefit in the renewal this family brings to our lives.

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